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Too early to tell whether VPD used appropriate force in death of Phung Na Du

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Reported by Sableen Minhas

Whether police officers are sufficiently trained to handle people with mental health issues and to what extent is the use of lethal force justified, are issues that have come up after the fatal shooting of 51-year-old Phung Na (Tony) Du on Saturday night.

Police were called in after receiving reports of a person “shouting and waving a two-by-four” at the intersection of East 41st Avenue and Knight Street. When Du failed to follow police directions he was fatally shot by officers.

Kellie Kilpatrick, spokesperson for the Independent Investigations Office of BC said officers have the right to use force and they are investigating whether it was justified on Saturday night’s incident.

“Lethal force was used,” she said. “But I am not saying today that it could have been avoided.”

To early to tell whether lethal force was appropriate

She said since their team is still investigating the incident “it is too soon to comment on the appropriateness of [the] ­use of force.” Whether Du was suffering from mental health issues is also under investigation.

Jonathan Morris, director of public policy, research and provincial programs at the Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division said police officers have a challenging job and they need to be aware about symptoms of mental illness in a person.

“Police need to have these skills and support from both police organizations and health systems,” he said.

Morris said that strategies that could work to disarm someone without mental health issues could have the opposite effect on a person who does.

He went on to say that municipal and RCMP officers undergo mandatory crisis intervention training and de-escalation training.

David Varty, a Vancouver based lawyer said there is a requirement that police use appropriate amount of force to contain dangerous situations.

“There are charges if there is undue use of force which is excess of what is required in the circumstances,” Varty said.

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